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Despite racist encounters

Campaign to free Mumia won’t stop

Published May 21, 2010 7:42 PM

The recently passed racist, anti-immigrant SB 1070 Arizona state law is the message supported by descendants of European immigrants who initially stole the lands they now occupy, while slaughtering millions of the original Indigenous inhabitants. At the same time, the state of Virginia honored the pro-slavery Confederacy with fond memories of yesteryear and the “good ole days.”

All of this harkens back from the frightening past to the present so-called “post-racial” U.S. Whether it is Virginia or Arizona, racist reminders are to be found everywhere, including in the once pro-Confederate state of Maryland, as members of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC) were reminded of on their trip to Washington, D.C., on April 26.

The coalition organized a delegation to go from the press conference, march and rally to the U.S. Department of Justice to demand that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder begin a federal civil rights investigation into the racist violations of Mumia’s legal and human rights. Also the delegation was to deliver an additional 20,000 letters and postcards in support of the investigation, plus call for a meeting with the Civil Rights Division.

On the way to D.C. the coalition experienced the misfortune of their bus breaking down. The driver pulled into a truck weigh station parking lot on a Maryland highway to check the brakes. He then determined it wasn’t safe to continue the trip. He requested another bus from the company.

The coalition was detained for nearly three hours, during which time some folks disembarked and walked around outside seeking vending machines and restrooms.

One Black passenger returned from the weigh station to the bus and commented that the staff inside had attitudes sounding like the southern “rednecks” he encountered growing up in the South. A few others shared their familiarity with his experiences. Later a staff person walked from the building to the bus and was overheard telling the bus driver — in his strong southern drawl — that the passengers could no longer use the bathrooms, as they had “clogged both the women’s and men’s toilets.”

The bus driver then announced that the facilities were “off limits” to everyone. A state patrol car shortly appeared, parked in front of the weigh station building and remained there until the replacement bus came and finally departed. It should be noted that most of the passengers were African Americans.

Before the replacement bus arrived, one of the white coalition members, who had been asleep during the announcement, left the bus and entered the weigh station building. When she returned to the bus and was asked if they had given her a hard time, she was surprised at the question. She stated that she went inside, asked where the restroom was, they pointed to it, and she was allowed to use it without incident. Both toilets were fully functioning.

Remembering the mission they were on, which was to get to D.C., along with the presence of the patrol car, no challenge to the obviously racist denial of the use of the restrooms seemed wise. White supremacy again reared its ugly head. Back to the past and present.

Pressure on Holder continues

No trip to Washington, D.C., was necessary on May 14. This time, Eric Holder came to New York City to deliver the keynote address to the 2010 Law School graduates of Columbia University. The Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and other supporters were there hours beforehand with banners, signs and leaflets. They also distributed close to 1,500 palm cards to everyone in the vicinity of the university, including the graduates, their guests and university staff. One palm card was delivered to Holder’s secret service agent, asking that he give the palm card to the attorney general.

The palm cards were in color with Mumia’s photo on one side and the words “Civil Rights Investigation NOW!,” the coalition website and phone number. The other side of the card had a copy of the authorized photo of Eric Holder and the words, “Attorney General Eric Holder: conduct a civil rights investigation for the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

Below Holder’s photo was a statement to the law school graduates addressing the issue of wrongful convictions and violations of constitutional rights in the U.S. legal system, followed by information regarding the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. At the bottom of the card are the words, “Join Us in This Fight for Justice!”

The importance of continuing the struggle to save Mumia Abu-Jamal’s life and eventually win his freedom cannot be overemphasized. He has been and continues to be an extraordinary fighter for freedom and justice — a voice of the voiceless. We are all Mumia!

Join the weekly call-in campaign: (202) 353-1555 to the U.S. Justice Department every Thursday, demanding a federal civil rights investigation. And organize, organize, organize! Free Mumia and all political prisoners!

The writer was a passenger on the bus.